Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Oshawa, for leading this motion today and for all his work on behalf of taxpayers and all Canadians.
Transparency is vital to Canada's free democracy, especially when it comes to spending Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars and making decisions, like on the carbon tax, that would seriously impact their ability to make ends meet and the whole economy.
Today's motion calls on the Liberals to open the books, to do what they promised to do and be honest with hard-working Canadians about the impact of the carbon tax on their lives. The Liberal carbon tax will make things so much worse for families and businesses in Lakeland, across Alberta, and in all of Canada.
Before the Liberals unilaterally announced that they would force the carbon tax on all Canadians, the Department of Finance completed two analyses on how much this tax would cost, its economic consequences, and how it would affect Canadians. Both documents were released through an access to information request, but all the detailed information was blacked out.
Canadians should know what their government is doing with the collection and spending of their hard-earned tax dollars and how the government's fiscal decisions will impact them. However, the Liberals are keeping all this a secret. Obviously, the Liberals are hiding information they do not want Canadians to know. Perhaps the documents prove that the carbon tax will harm Canadians by raising the price of everything for everyone.
A carbon tax supporter, professor Nicholas Rivers, admitted that the Liberals' national carbon tax would increase the price of gasoline by 11¢ a litre, electricity bills by 10%, and natural gas by 15%. It is a burden Canadian families should not have to bear. In fact, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation calculated that the national carbon tax will cost more than $1,000 per person, or more than $4,000 per family of four, annually.
The redacted documents probably show that low-income Canadians, the most vulnerable, will be hurt by this tax the most. Low-income families in Canada spend a majority of their household income on basic necessities, including food, heating, and gas. This tax will disproportionately hit them with cost hikes on essentials.
The Liberals have promised time and time again that transparency is their most important principle. They have created this facade by posting mandate letters online, starting endless studies and reviews, and consulting on consultations, but when it comes to comprehensive, meaningful, internal information that should be available to all Canadians, the Liberals are shutting the books.
In 2016, the parliamentary budget officer said that the Liberals' first budget was “less transparent than [any] Conservative budgets under Stephen Harper and overestimates the number of jobs that will be created”. Fast forward to this year and the same independent parliamentary budget officer chided the Liberals for their lack of transparency on spending.
In the 2015 campaign, the Prime Minister talked a big game about transparency, and in fact, the Liberal Party's campaign website has an entire section entitled: “Openness. Transparency. Fairness. Making government work for Canadians.” The platform says,
At its heart is a simple idea: transparent government is good government. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.
However, the Liberals' actions speak much louder than their words. Hiding these reports goes against the most fundamental promise the Liberals pledged to Canadians for 78 days, and regularly ever since. Here we are, day 596 into their mandate, and it is clear that the Liberals are all rhetoric almost all the time, leaving a trail of broken promises.
The Liberals love to talk about transparency. In fact, they have said the word in one form or another a combined 1,358 times in the House of Commons and at committee since they took office. That is a lot of talk for a party that does the complete opposite.
The Liberals must be transparent about the costs of their nationally imposed carbon tax, especially since much of the information they have presented does not make sense or add up and because the carbon tax will hurt most the very people they claim to care about. The key tenets of the Liberals' argument for the carbon tax, that it would be revenue neutral and would reduce emissions, are actually verifiably false.
The Liberals told Canadians that the tax would be a neutral price on carbon. First, there is no guarantee whatsoever of any so-called revenue neutrality in every province, and recently, the Library of Parliament revealed that Albertans and British Columbians will pay $280 million in GST on the carbon tax over the next two years. The Liberals cannot claim that the carbon tax is revenue neutral when the federal government will collect millions in GST revenues from taxing the tax.
The member for Newmarket—Aurora said, “To characterize something as a carbon tax is not doing that person any justice. We all know it is a revenue-neutral plan. Just because people keep calling something a carbon tax does not make it a carbon tax.”
That is nonsense. It is obvious it is a tax and it is obvious the cost will be passed on to consumers. In fact, the member for Carleton found out recently that internal government documents show that the tax will cascade through the Canadian economy. Since the Liberals are forcing this tax on all Canadians, then Canadians deserve to fully understand what it will cost them.
The member for Vancouver Quadra said that British Columbians are “proud that the emissions were driven down over a number of years by this carbon tax”, but in fact, in every year since 2010, emissions in B.C. have actually increased. They have gone up every year. There has been no significant reduction in gasoline purchases, which should concern proponents on that side, since transportation is the second-highest sector for emissions.
What is worse, resources and other industries, such as cement manufacturing, have been hit hard by the tax. Cement that used to be manufactured completely in B.C. is now being imported from jurisdictions with no carbon tax. Rural growth has stalled. However, the left spins a different tale.
The Prime Minister said just this month that a carbon tax is something “everyone can understand”, but they do not. In a way, they cannot, because the very nature of the Liberals' carbon tax is not transparent. The cost is hidden in the price of groceries, at the gas pump, in the price of meals at restaurants, in heating bills, in annual school board fees required for additional resources for transport, in future municipal tax hikes or service cuts to cover the added costs to their thin budgets, in recreational cost increases, in hikes in refrigeration and heating costs, and in job cuts.
Therefore, this motion calls for maximum clarity for customers on bills, invoices, and receipts to show Canadians exactly how much this tax will cost them. As much as the Liberals and the left want to deny it, this tax will punish Canadians. Just as in the case of the HST and GST, it should be clear to everyone why their everyday bills are suddenly more expensive.
Transparency can always be improved. Throughout the years, access to information requests have been a valuable tool for opposition MPs, journalists, and Canadians to find out information from federal departments on a variety of issues, and on spending in particular. Of course, the Liberals made this a specific pledge in their election platform, which states, “We will amend the Access to Information Act so that all government data and information is made open by default in machine-readable, digital formats” and “We will also ensure that Access to Information applies to the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ Offices, as well as administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts.”
Of course, like so many others, this promise has yet to come to fruition.
The President of the Treasury Board, the minister responsible, even announced this past March that any access to information reform would be delayed indefinitely. He then skipped out on the Transparency for the 21st Century conference organized by the Information Commissioner herself. It is just another example of the Liberals saying one thing to get elected and then doing something, anything, else.
The carbon tax will kill jobs, especially in remote, rural, and agriculture- and energy-based communities. I have heard from business owners in Lakeland who are predicting layoffs because they are already struggling to stay afloat. Small and family business owners who may employ half a dozen or a dozen employees but whose businesses are significant to their communities will be forced to make decisions they do not want to have to make: raising operating costs or prices, decreasing output, cutting wages and benefits, or laying off their employees. All Canadians deserve to know how much the tax will cost them in every aspect of their lives.
The Liberals' pattern of breaking promises and blaming others is getting old. Whether they are low income, the poor, middle-class Canadians, families, single parents, seniors, people on fixed incomes, businesses, or charities, all Canadians deserve better.
I support this motion. I thank my colleague. I urge all members of this House to support it too. The Liberals need to walk their talk because, in their own words, it is a matter of trust.